Matthew Blackburn (MB): Five months in, the most optimistic kind of predictions from the point of view of the West and Ukraine that Russia will collapse have not come true.

The most pessimistic assessments that Russia will win rapidly have also not occurred.

So we’re in this kind of gray zone, and I will try to balance the picture of continuity and change.

I’m going to resist using a single tagline to describe the Putin system, because I think it’s very easy to fall into using one myth that explains everything, but that’s not what analysts should do.

We have to keep the complexity.

Today I’m not going to look at my own opinions or what I think should happen or should be.

I’m just going to focus on trying to understand the impact of the invasion on these different areas.

I can tell you in advance that I see more continuity than change in Russian politics from these five months.

But we’ll go through this very quickly, the structure of this talk.

So before I talk about impact, it’s really necessary for me to characterize the Putin system, and you’ll get lots of different people, analysts that will give their characterization, I’m sure, in different ways over the course of the summer school.

And once I’ve done that, we’ll look at the impact of the war in the realm of ideas, narratives, values, and this messaging that goes on from the Kremlin to the population and the elites.

Then I’ll look at structural foundations, and by structural, I mean the structures of governance, the state bureaucracy, the state’s capacity to deliver certain key services, and its technocratic capacities, but also economic performance.

Yeah, and so the third area is I’m looking at factional politics, the balance of political groups that are in proximity to power.

So after each section, I’ll stop and open for a Q&A of five to 10 minutes, maybe, just so we can take a break from listening to me and my monologue.

And so then we’ll take a break after I characterize the Putin system, we’ll take a break after the other sections, and we’ll finish with the Q&A.

So because I’m covering all these three things in one lecture, obviously, I don’t go into as much detail as I could if I just focused on one of them.

So I will skip some of the details, but I’m more than happy to take questions after each pause, where you can check more things you want detail on, or things you want to check or clarify.

Okay, then, so we start off by trying to characterize this system going up to 2018.

I basically would say that some important changes happened after 2018, and we can come back to that later.

But there’s five elements I want to pick out.

The first one is what I would call statism, and the means of legitimization of the Putin system.

So by statism, I don’t mean any kind of fully elaborated ideology.

I mean, a kind of way of framing politics through the lens of the strength of the state and the sovereignty of the state.

So that includes territorial integrity, processes of state building, promises of macroeconomic stability, paying off debts, integrating into the world economy on Russia’s terms, restoring great power status, projecting power outwards.

And of course, all of this leads to a conflict with the West.

Broadly speaking, the statist kind of worldview that has been pushed and has evolved over the last 20 years, we could say that it has broad legitimacy in about 60 to 65% of the population, if you look at polling data.

And these 60% chunk, they basically see the basic, well, they would evaluate the basic achievements of the government and the state in simply holding Russia together and having a functional state capacity.

These are things that are not considered to be achievements in most Western societies, but they are in the context of comparisons with the 90s.

So to summarize this kind of social contract, as I see it, prior to the invasion, the president or the regime ensures the state is strong in as far as order, social order and territorial integrity and macroeconomic stability and national independence, great power status are all retained.

Meanwhile, the people put up with corruption, weak institutions, problems related with governance, with the proviso that the state does not become too invasive, too predatory to them as individuals.

So they stay out of political activism and they accept, the people accept and the elites accept.

Democratization, civil rights, rule of law, these are not on the agenda.

So with this picture of legitimization, I’m trying to make the point the Putin system relies on some of procedures of state capacity and running the country and showing itself to be a legitimate state builders.

There’s also the performance of the state institutions and the economic stability.

And then there’s the beliefs of the prioritizing the state as the most important thing is holding the state together.

So I’ll come back to that a bit later, of course.

The second characterization, element of my characterization is, of course, the way politics are done.

I would still say that right up until the invasion, Russia was an electoral authoritarian system between the two categories of closed authoritarianism, North Korea, China, and liberal democracy, Sweden or Switzerland.

The electoral authoritarian system is about the retention and the use of democratic forms and procedures while simultaneously managing and manipulating the outcomes, the electoral outcomes, so that the party of power, United Russia and the president stay in power, stay in place.

What’s it all for?

Why have this electoral authoritarian system when they could just go for the closed authoritarian system of China is because one of the key sources of legitimacy is that there are these kind of referendum style elections where majorities are brought home for the party of power and for the president.

And when that is done, in the meantime, political policy differences, political differences are depoliticized in this kind of system.

Contestation between groups is managed so it doesn’t come out into the open and cause instability in the eyes of the Kremlin.

So this electoral authoritarian system is not interrupted by democratic turnover and from the point of view of the Kremlin, that allows technocratic governance and statist planning to have more continuity than it would if they switched governments.

I mean, last year, the changing of the people in power.

So finally, the point is that with electoral authoritarianism, there is a kind of system that is what you can call the administrative regime, which stands above the constitutional state institutions like the Duma or the regional governors.

The administrative regime monitors and controls political and social developments.

OK, and so you have a kind of dual state in Russia.

You have the actual institutions which are running and then you have this administrative regime which runs on top of it, the presidential administration.

Third key characterization of the system is that, in my view, it is ideologically plural and there’s ideological diversity in policies.

No single ideology is hegemonic.

Political Putin’s kind of approach to politics can be described as centrism all the way up until recent period.

He’s trying to stand above the main ideological factions.

He rejects radical nationalism or radical liberalism, communism or even globalism.

He rejects all of that.

And he has instead this statism, which is not a full-fledged radical ideology, in my view, but we will come back to that later if we want to talk about ideology.

So from 2012 onwards, of course, there is this shift towards a more securitized patriotism that is very emotional and status based about Russia and global politics and the West as an enemy.

And in this context, some of this pluralism, of course, has been reduced, particularly for some liberals.

Most nationalists, half of the political prisoners in Russia today are nationalists and all of Navalny and his followers as of 2021.

And the repression and the exclusion from politics I would characterize as being not like Stalinism or National Socialism, but more like Latin American electoral authoritarian regimes in the 20th century, where left wing Marxist socialist groups were pushed out of politics and a kind of patriotic grammar or loyalty to the state kind of entry test was created.

OK, so suffice to say that in this ideologically plural characteristic or categories such as left and right are not so useful to be deployed straightforwardly in the Russian context.

And we come back to that, of course, with this idea that there’s such a thing as factional politics in Russia.

Well, there’s factional politics in all political systems, of course, in the context of Russia I highlight four factions, which could be, shall we say, a point of debate for the other analysts that come today and the rest of the summer school.

I point out the siloviki and the military-industrial complex.

Suffice to say, this has been a faction whose influence and power has increased since 2012 as we’ve moved through the securitization tension with the West.

And this is a very well-funded faction and it has many different parts, and we can go through the details of it later if there’s an interest in that.

Suffice to say, the different parts of this faction are actually competing with each other and sufficiently divergent in their interests that we could say they don’t always operate as a very unified faction.

The second faction is the top level of the state bureaucracy, the top of the power vertical.

And again, this is also divided into several competing overlapping structures.

The presidential administration, central government apparatus, federal ministries, regional governors.

Third part is liberal financial business bloc.

Now, part of this is about the economic policy establishment in Russia.

So the Central Bank of Russia, the Finance Ministry, Ministry of Economic Development, generally speaking neoliberal in their worldview.

And they often represent the interests of Russia’s billionaires and sometimes millionaires.

Although the question of oligarchs is a complicated one, there’s different oligarchs attached to different factions.

So the oligarchs themselves don’t form a faction like they did under Yeltsin.

Finally, a broad range of politically accepted groups that we might call illiberal from a Western point of view, liberal.

Now, this is neotraditional, by which I mean traditional values, conservatism, the Orthodox Church, but also Eurasian kind of ideologies.

And these groups can be more radical in what they would like to change in Russia than Putin is in his speeches.

To some extent, we could say that we don’t know.

It’s difficult to show how much they influence Putin, but we have a wide range of NGOs, think tanks, volunteer armies, politically active oligarchs in this fourth faction, and of course, the systemic opposition, the communists, LDPR and Za Pravdu.

These parties all take up these illiberal ideas and push various ideas.

So I would argue that in this characterization, Putin tries to keep these factions happy by creative policies that fit for them.

So on the one hand, the liberal reforms of the 90s are not overturned.

Liberals stay in certain kinds of liberals, loyal status liberals stay in influential economic posts.

The logic of neoliberalism is followed in many parts of the economy.

On the other hand, the social contract that Putin has created also has elements of the Soviet social contract.

The basic provisions are delivered, improved state capacity, welfare, and of course, using energy rents to keep certain industries alive that are not profitable, but they keep communities going.

And of course, we know about the traditional values, policies that the Kremlin has initiated since 2012 and the embrace for the Russian Orthodox Church that satisfies the new traditional bloc.

And the Eurasian integration, the pivot to the East, and of course, the confrontation with the West.

These things satisfy the Siloviki and the Eurasian groups.

David Darchiashvili (DD): So whether you think it is important, and if that is the case, where this social layer to put in terms of factions?

I mean, organized crime.

Matthew Blackburn (MB): Aha, good question.

Now, it depends on what term you use.

There’s this term of the mafia state, which I wouldn’t use here because that’s too much of a fusion between organized crime and the political elites, which has happened in cases like Mexico or sub-Saharan Africa.

But here, I would say it’s not correct.

But I’ve also heard the term the third state, which describes these shadow groups that are trying to influence outcomes, and we can’t follow it.

I think it’s an important part.

I think, is it Mark Gugliotti that’s written a good book about this?

And I think that’s definitely, I almost included it in my analysis, but just for the sake of, yeah, I think it could be integrated.

And the question is, in the shadowy world, how much have the Siloviki been able to break certain organized crime networks and reduce their influence?

But to what extent does their replacement of these organized crime groups actually constitute another kind of organized crime?

Because we know that there’s a lot of evidence that the Siloviki, the raiders, the raid businesses, they take money.

They are also, there’s accusations of bribery within the FSB.

So, and different agencies doing that.

So, good question.

And I think it’s definitely worth being in our analysis of the characteristics of this system.

But I didn’t put it there because I can’t find evidence to really produce a good point.

And I’m not sure to say how corrupt Russia is compared to Turkey or China or any of these other places.

I really can’t give you this characterization.

So, therefore, I’ll leave it off.

Another question.

DD: Yeah, we see the hand raised by Georgi Mladenov.

Georgi Mladenov (GM):

What could the USA and the EU have done better to avoid the war in Ukraine?

I mean, Putin has been in power for more than 20 years.

So, some of his actions could have been predicted.

You know, that’s my opinion.

MB: Yeah, I think that is kind of outside the topic here.

But I’ll just say very briefly that the diplomatic kind of relations between America and Russia over the last 10 years have reached an impasse, a kind of dead end, where the Russian side believes they’re being ignored and where the American side believes Russia has ambitions to expand or to break the order, the world order, and to be like a rogue state.

So, from the point of view of the foreign policy establishment in Washington, they did what they wanted, in the sense that they believed that they could have a confrontation with Russia, and Russia would collapse.

The foreign policy establishment in Moscow believed that they could take the West on, and they had a red line.

And if they decided that they need be, they would use hard power against the West.

The West’s client state, I’m talking from the point of view of the foreign policy establishment in Moscow, that’s how they see the world.

And the next slide is actually, I should have stopped here, probably I’ve made a mistake.

It’s trying to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this system in January 2022.

Now, I mentioned this stuff of macroeconomic stability, state capacity, punching above their weight in world affairs, by which I mean Russia’s role in world politics is definitely more than their actual hard power indicators would suggest.

This use of information war, identity politics, it does bring about a certain consolidation.

They said 60 to 65% block, I think you can see in the polling, and the successful management of actual politics.

All of these are sources of stability.

Of course, the sources of stagnation are there and threats to the future of the system.

And this is inherent in the kind of paradoxical elements of the Putin system.

So one is that they use these democratic forms and procedures, but in fact, there’s a fear of democracy because democracy has the potential to unravel the order, the status order, and lead to some kind of change or regime change or something.

So there’s this control of political debates.

Elections are not really choices where you can change the path.

The path is decided from above.

So what are they for?

And is it really a space where the elites can compete?

Or is it kind of becoming a space that’s stagnant and it’s not really a place where real politics happens?

Second problem is institutions.

How do you develop technocratic institutions you need for technocratic governments and for economic performance if you’re going to constantly intervene and have arbitrary interventions on these institutions?

So the question of how to make strong institutions with this kind of system, we don’t know.

Four is, of course, three is economic growth, the stagnation of the last 10 years.

And again, it’s linked potentially to institutions, but it’s also linked to all the money that goes to underperforming industries.

And you have all of these people and all these resources invested in completely inefficient industries.

Inequality is across the population.

It’s one of the most unequal societies in the world, Russia, and it’s also within across regions, huge regional inequality.

And that, of course, is a big problem.

And it leads to this question of the legitimacy of a system where all the growth happens in most parts of Petersburg and maybe Sochi and Tyumen and little places like this, but the rest is stagnant.

What does that mean for politics?

Final problem that you could identify in January 2022 is that the way that the Putin system moves to securitization and this kind of fortress Russia image is basically saying Russia holds its ground against the pressure of the West or whatever, but it’s not actually a positive vision of the future.

It’s just holding the line.

And because Putin and the Putin system doesn’t take a grand scheme from any of the ideological blocks and apply it in quite a systematic way because it’s a mix, as I said in the previous slide, it’s a mix of different ideological policy selections because it doesn’t take one of them.

This regime, in a way, felt like it was kind of trapped in time with no transformative vision of the future.

Just hold on to what we have.

So those are all the sort of way I would characterize things in January 2022.

And for those people who are trying to analyze what was going on in Russian politics from 2018 until 2022, of course, everything changes in 24th of February.

And even though there was this build up, I think many analysts, including myself, just didn’t think this war would happen, didn’t think it would break out.

So five months of this war, I’m going to try now to talk about the impact of it in three areas.

And, of course, things have changed because everything is staked on this special military operation.

And this is now a make or break kind of way of changing the atmosphere of Russian politics.

I’ve got up here to begin with this question of ideas, narratives, values.

And I want to make a point right off from the beginning that the invasion adds a new flavor and a new urgency to all the previous messages, but it doesn’t change them.

The fundamental messages were already in place prior to the invasion.

Having said that, there was no pre-invasion propaganda campaign to justify the invasion.

Instead, you had key figures like Peskov and even Patrushev saying that there’s not going to be an invasion.

And then all of a sudden there is.

So there was no pre-invasion big kind of push.

And why there wasn’t, it’s quite obvious because, well, to some extent, it’s obvious because there was already polling.

There’s polling data that suggests that Donbass is not at the center of public attention.

You’re not going to be able to mobilize people on this issue.

Around half of the population wanted to see a solution to the situation in Donbass, either to join Russia, that was 27% in May 2019, or 29% supported it becoming independent.

That’s May 2019.

So the rest, the other half, were not interested in this issue.

So this Z propaganda, this focus on the bravery of the military, it’s not a mass phenomenon, and it doesn’t need to be because there isn’t a mobilization in Russia.

They’re not trying to mobilize the population.

It’s not being done that way.

May the 9th is not overwhelmingly about Z.

You do see people that are doing it.

On the bottom right is a State Duma deputy whose husband shaved the Z into his head.

This kind of classic social media pictures, flash mobs.

Then you have, of course, Z’s use in the military and turning up on certain buildings.

And the two clear images that have emerged out of the war so far is the Babushka with the Soviet flag, who is insulted by Ukrainian troops, but still waves her flag.

And this young boy, Alyosha, who was very friendly to some.

It doesn’t really look that impressive in terms of how they are handling the information war.

And it seems like that the Kremlin is basically willing to allow a large part of the population to not be interested in this at all, and not trying to turn this into mass mobilization.

And they can get on with their unnormally life, their everyday life, as far as is possible.

Whereas the professionals, the military, they take care of the military operation.

That is the way it’s been.

So just to focus, boil down a little bit on some key lines that have been very clear in 2022.

And I’m taking this really from Putin’s speeches, but I noticed that when you look at Putin’s speeches, the way that the structure and the themes that come up, and then you look at the loyalists around Putin, you find that they repeat the same themes.

There’s a lot of continuity, maybe a different way it’s done, but these are the basic lines.

A large part of it is justifying the special military operation.

And here, I’m just kind of paraphrasing the stuff that I’m reading on Kremlin press crew.

The first one, it fits in with these narratives about security that have been going on for decades in Kremlin discourse.

Expansion of NATO means that there’s an anti-Russian vanguard client state, and therefore demilitarization is required.

This is an existential threat to Russia, and that’s repeated time and time again.

And it plays upon generally negative views of the USA in Russian society, and strong distrust of USA and NATO.

So that part is a clear part.

Second part is this humanitarian dimension, and this is where you come to denazification.

How do they justify denazification?

Because they claim that these Nazis are going to kill people.

They’re going to need to denazify.

Otherwise, this element of it is not called the preventative war, but essentially this is the part of the justification which uses the preventative war theory.


And so Putin’s 2021 essay on the historic closeness of Russians and Ukrainians, and the idea that the West and these Ukrainian nationalists have turned it around, and this has to be stopped.

It does chime and resonate with a lot of Russians.

The third is lots of moralization.

Russians are good, the West are degenerate.

Why are they degenerate?

Because they have provoked this war, they’ve ignored diplomacy, and they hate Russians, they violate their own principles.

So, of course, since 2014, this has been noticeable.

Since the Crimean annexation, it’s been noticeable that state media starts more of its reports by looking at what the Western media is saying, and simply saying, look at how crazy they are.

So this has accelerated even more in 2022, to the point where like 80% of talk shows, or even Kiselov’s Vesty that he does is daily kind of updates, weekly updates.

These have been filled with starting with framing things through what the Western propaganda is saying.

So any kind of Western intolerance or double standards or craziness or unfairness or hyperbole is picked up on and focused on.

A lot of the things that people that are critical of NATO in the West, that they are saying, is then being taken and used by the Kremlin.

For example, fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.

This is a kind of term that came from, I don’t know if it was Musheim or someone else that used it, maybe it was Scott Ritter.

These are people that are critical of NATO inside the West, or their policy in Ukraine.

So they are then filtering in.

So the fourth element is very old and not new as well.

It’s the emotional status based narrative that Russia just wants to have a fair place in the world and they are being ignored.

They hate us, they want us to collapse.

So we need to fight to make a new order, because this means they will get our basic dignity and we’ll be able to be a strong and sovereign state.

There’s a zero, it’s a binary.

Either you’re a strong sovereign state or you’re nothing.

You’re a colony, you’re a slave.

And that’s the kind of fourth element.

And the fifth is a bit newer, but it’s always been there.

But it’s a bit newer because it’s about reassuring people in the population that things are not going to collapse.

So focus on, look at the performance of the economy, look at the stability that we have, or look at how our operation is performing completely naturally as we planned it, it’s all going normal, everything’s normal.

And so these are the five elements that I would say, how much difference is there here from what was going on before?

And perhaps the key difference, and this could be controversial to some extent, is that all of these things that were being said before, they could be seen by the population to be more or less relevant as we go through the last 20 years.

And for example, in 2008, there was a little spike, which is related to the war with Georgia.

Then there’s 2014 in Crimea, there’s a spike.

And in 2022, there’s another spike.

So what we see is the use of foreign policy, when foreign policy chimes in with these five narratives, you get a very persuasive argument.

And the reason it’s more persuasive is because, look at what’s going on, look at the reality, look at what they’re doing, look at what’s happening in Ukraine.

All of a sudden it’s real.

But in 20, for example, 2019, it wasn’t real.

The Donbass conflict, frozen, it’s going on, but it’s not that big interest.

People are more interested in the economy, living standards.

So to some extent, this ideational shift, it’s very difficult to get the polling data and rely on it.

Because in Russia, the polling agencies, apart from Nevada, are manipulated by the state in important ways, and they’re under a lot of pressure to produce certain numbers.

As for Nevada Center, they’re under great pressure, and it’s amazing that they still operate, to be honest.

So the polling data is difficult to rely on.

But there was a question there in the chat about, and I’ll just come off the screen share now.

The question in the chat was about how far the population is dissatisfied or satisfied with all of this.

So of course, as I said, there’s this core that is actually behind Putin quite strongly and subscribes to the key founding principles of the Putin system.

And I would say that’s as high as 60%.

Some people could argue it’s lower down to 40, whatever.

40 to 60, that’s the core base.

Then you have this apolitical chunk of people, and then you have the anti-regime chunk, which could be as high as 20%.

Depends on how you analyze these things.

Now, for the anti-regime chunk, they have a problem because they have to choose between silence or loyalty to the regime, which is something they don’t believe in.

Or the third option is to criticize the regime, and that’s extremely difficult now for reasons of repression, but not just for reasons of repression, because if you criticize your own country when it’s engaged in a conflict with another country, then in the eyes of many people, you’re a traitor.

So they have that problem.

The democratic opposition of Russia right now that is living in Europe, in my opinion, are doing themselves a huge amount of damage when they call for the collapse of Russia.

That is doing more damage to them than any Putin propaganda could do.

They’re damaging their own cause.

But that’s a separate issue.

Come back to the apolitical group in the middle.

They’re very important.

And I would just say intuitively that the apolitical people, there’s a number of them moving to a pro-regime position to support the military operation because basically they have no other choice.

What are they supposed to do?

Support the West, support the sanctions, support Kiev government.

So this is the way I see it.

But to talk about it being a very enthusiastic consolidation, like for example, the beginning of World War I, people came out into the streets to celebrate the beginning of the war in Berlin and in Vienna and in St. Petersburg and in London and in Paris.

They were all hungry for war.

This is not the case in Russia.

It’s not the case at the moment.

And very much a tricky question to answer.

But I finished there on the ideational.

And questions or comments?

I’ll stop for just 10 minutes.

DD: So questions.

Don’t you think that there was something provoking your thought?

MB: It was all orthodox.

It was all predictable.

It was all just predictable.

Tamar Tolordava (TT): The role of the Russian diaspora in the evolution do you see them as an important actor?

MB: OK, so I’ve kind of touched on that.

That there is, of course, a Russian diaspora and it’s made up of them.

Navalnysty and more traditional democratic liberals.

And some of them have been in the diaspora for many years.

Some have just arrived.

An important actor depends on what regard you mean.

I don’t think they’re an important actor to diplomacy or achieving a solution to the war.

In terms of them being able to have discussions and prepare a new generation of Russians for whatever comes next.

I think it is very important.

I think that the Russian diaspora after the October Revolution had an influence on Soviet politics, which is often underestimated by the historical literature.

So yeah, I think, of course, it has a role and hopefully it’s a constructive role.

But I would say that Russian politics in the next 10 years is going to be basically along a certain grammar of where you have to show loyalty to the state and be a patriot, which is a kind of imposition from above.

But it’s also agreed upon by a large range of the current political actors.

So any oppositional group that is going to try to attack the Kremlin and attack the Russian state, I think we’ll have a difficult time reaching about 70 or 80% of the Russian population.

Because they will just play into the arms of the Russian propagandists who claim that they are a fifth column.

Yeah, another question.

Tamara Tkemaladze (TTk): Thank you.

You touched upon many issues that defines the current regime in Russia.

But I was wondering what’s your opinion on the role of energy resources and the holding on this kind of huge power in energy to create this kind of structure in Russia?

MB: I’m just going to come to that in the next section as I look at structural kind of dynamics.

And that includes economy, includes energy.

And I’m not an economist, but I’ll do my best to give an analysis of that with the idea being that all of us should try to listen to different analysts from different disciplines to try to get the picture.

So yeah, we’ll go to that next.

Is there any more questions about the ideational sphere or the sphere of state propaganda or legitimacy?

DD: Well, then let me ask you.

First of all, on this, let’s call it, defeatist mood of Russian democratic people who are abroad.

I would say Russian democratic immigration.

There was a case in the history when defeatists won eventually and took the power.

Bolsheviks were like that.

So there are cases when fighting against your government may bring a benefit.

And the second, how would you link the denazification, this humanitarian moralistic idea with the claims, which basically comes from Putin himself and Medvedev.

And then it is just multiplied spread that Ukrainians are not the nation, it’s an artificial nation.

So these two for you, denazification and the claim that Ukrainian nation is artificial, come together or these are two different ideas?

MB: Good question.

So the first question about opposition, I’m not a person to give the advice to people who have been oppositional politicians in Russia.

And I respect their bravery and their commitment and the energy they put in to try to change their country.

So I’m not trying to lecture them.

But if you’re asking for my opinion, I would say that they should look back on the Balinese experience and question how useful that was, how successful it was.

You have to be tactical.

And the role of opposition is to try to point at policies and making better policies.

And to do that would be building programs and staying out of geopolitics and the big status stuff and not take it on directly.

And why?

Why do that?

Because at some point, there will be a loosening of this regime.

Hopefully, it won’t turn into North Korea, but it will loosen in another direction.

And then there could be a way back into politics.

But the politics of loyalty after Putin leaves, who knows what they’ll be?

So I would recommend, I would advise opposition activists not to discredit themselves and gamble on the idea of regime change.

And that then you’ll enter a government in a regime change.

If there’s going to be a regime change, they’ll participate anyway.

They don’t need to make a lot of noise about that now.

This thing they held in Prague called the Forum of Free Russian Nations or something, where they’re calling for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakup of the Russian Federation.

That is a present to the Kremlin propaganda.

They will be showing it on state media, perhaps if they want to.

I think it breaks the Russian law.

They won’t do it.

Because it calls for the breakup of the Russian Federation.

But anyway, that’s the first one.

The second point, yes, of course, this question, this tension between these two elements, I don’t want to get into a position where I’m trying to defend Medvedev for Putin and say that their views are logical and consistent and coherent.

The denazification thing has a tension with the idea that somehow the Ukrainian state doesn’t have a right to exist.

But I think that it’s worth having a debate about the actual claims that they have made that the Ukrainian state doesn’t have a right to exist.

What they have been saying is that the Kiev government is illegitimate and was put in place after a coup d’etat by foreign powers.

That’s not the same as saying the Ukrainian state itself doesn’t have a right to exist at all.

So I think that here we could have an interesting debate where you look at the conflicting narratives and see how much of it actually does say that.

But someone could write a paper about that.

It’s not so clear to me that that’s what they’re saying, that Ukraine has no right to exist.

DD: Sorry, Matthew, but read Putin’s article about Ukraine, 2021.

MB: I’ve read it many times and I don’t see that written in it, that Ukraine has no right to exist.

DD: He blames Lenin for creating Ukraine.

That’s how we read it.

MB: That’s the territorial extent of Ukraine and the question of the self-determination of the people in Ukraine.

But that doesn’t mean the same as saying Ukraine has no right to exist, it must be dissolved as a state.

That’s not the same.

So look, I think that you could have a good debate on that and people could try to look at the text.

At the end of the day, they’re behaving at the moment as if the Kiev government doesn’t have a right, doesn’t have authority over the Donbass and Crimea and other parts too, which they’re making up as they go along.

That’s why I would agree with that.

The extent of the humanitarian intervention, when they move beyond Donbass, if they move, they have Hersonis beyond Donbass, if they move to Odessa or Kharkov, then all of a sudden this humanitarian thing, it’s not going to work anymore.

And it’s going to be clearly a regime change project, which again, they haven’t come out and said, we are fighting the war until Zelensky is removed and the Ukrainian government is dissolved.

They never said that as a warrior.

Instead, they go with this denazification thing because it’s more muddy, unclear where its borders are and what does it actually mean.

So to make the final point then, David, I would say that one of the ways to answer your question is to say the Kremlin has traditionally kept things rather mucky and muddy and contradictory at times just to give it this space to manoeuvre, especially now in this invasion.

A question on the other side.

Mariami Kakhidze (MK): Good evening.

First of all, I want to say thank you to you for the very, very interesting presentation.

I had the same question which was answered, which was questioned by Mr. David, but I have another question also about the propaganda, which you have mentioned in your speech.

We say that for the bigger changes we need, the mass of people, but in Russia, this propaganda is very, very strong.

And for example, I have a friend who lived in Kherson and her mother was in Crimea.

She was very, very nervous in the beginning of the war and she was calling to understand how she was, but she was very surprised because she said that she even did not know that there was a war in Ukraine.

So what do you think, what is the best weapon to fight against the propaganda in Russia?

Because the people in Russia don’t have the true information, majority of that.

MB: Are you asking me about Ukraine or are you talking about the West?

MK: No, in Russia, propaganda in Russia.

MB: People that are in Russia, what can they do to fight propaganda?

MK: Yes, it’s very difficult.

MB: Well, they can go to jail as prisoners of conscience.

That was the option on the table for people in Britain in World War I who disagreed with the war.

Wartime censorship is a kind of, there’s a statement, the first casualty of war is truth.

And, you know, so I respect people, for example, who are conscientious objectors, who will not serve in the army.

And I respect people who are prisoners of conscience and refuse to say things they don’t believe it.

And the Russian government probably doesn’t.

And so if you take the position of someone like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, then you do not lie.

And because you do not lie, other people see the truth.

And because you do not, because so morally, I think it’s the right thing to do.

But you’re asking people to destroy their entire life and potentially their family’s life.

And it’s a big thing to ask people to do.

So I certainly don’t ask people to do it, but I admire the bravery and courage of people who do that, of going to jail and posting things.

I mean, that is something that from a liberal point of view, if you believe in classical liberalism, then you admire and accept those actions as correct morally.

Okay, we move on to the struggle.

TT: Yeah, so there are two questions and there is one comment as well.

So I don’t know.

MB: Yeah, I’m just looking at them.

So you say that people living abroad, that calling for, you know, are going to be perceived as traitors, but in an autocracy, does it matter?

How do you generally see the prospects for value changes?

Good question.

It’s very tricky because you actually do have value clusters in Russia, and you can look at political sociology’s attempts to split them out.

The value clusters of the most modern cities that have economic growth and more people that are working in the private sector, and they orientate themselves to change, reform, and making Russia more modern.

Then you have, of course, the Rust Belt, industries that are kept going by the state, and these now are the heartlands of United Russia.

They used to be the heartlands of the Communist Party in the 90s, now they’re the heartlands of Russia.

You have evidence as well of a Bible Belt phenomenon occurring in Russia, where you have religious or conservative kind of areas, particularly around Tambov, Pskov, Vologda, I think.

I have to check that data.

So what I’m saying is, it’s a complex picture.

There’s different value clusters and therefore there’s always…

Does it matter?

Yeah, it does matter, the whole point about what you do.

In as far as, if there are people who are, the Russian word, gramotnyieye, they are smart in the way they understand politics, and they understand the values of the population, and they understand the different groups and the different regions, then they can actually come up with a program that’s much better than United Russia.

Assuming that they use the right program and they don’t cross the red lines that are set in the securitized areas, then in theory, they can become popular in the country as a whole.

Then there can be individual people in that movement who are popular.

Navalny is not popular in Russia.

I say that.

I don’t think it’s controversial.

He’s not popular.

Many people see him as an agent of Western intelligence.

He put himself in that position.

He’s a brave man and I admire him in many ways, but he put himself in that position.

By taking on the Kremlin and using the headline of corruption, a corrupt take down the state, build a new regime.

He took that road.

So, okay.

I hope I’ve answered that.

I don’t want to get, I want to make sure that I cover the rest of the lecture.

So I’m going to move on now.

I do appreciate those questions and they’re very interesting.

So I’ll go back to my screen.

And again, I might not have to be able to give you all the details here, but the next area was structural.

And structure, as I said, I include the state structures here.

I include the economic kind of performance and the money that’s moving around the country, the revenues, which of course are extremely important to any country.

Especially a country like Russia, where you might say the concept of patronal politics, where there’s a president, patron, there’s the biggest patron at the very top, and there’s lines moving down that give money for loyalty, is one of the principles of the Russian political system.

Of course, it’s common to many political systems across the non-West, including Turkey and India and Brazil.

So we don’t need to take exceptionalism here towards Russia.

Okay, so what was supposed to happen?

Well, from the point of view of the West was there would be an economic blitzkrieg and the country’s state structures would not cope.

And Russia would collapse to some extent.

Why did people in the West think that?

Perhaps because they applied that logic to themselves and imagined what would happen if in the West, the richest people had their property confiscated and the best corporations and consumer options disappeared.

There was inflation and a run on the national currency.

If that happened in any Western context, the government would fall.

So it didn’t happen because many in the West misunderstood the properties of the Russian state.

They prefer to see it as a mafia state when that’s only one element of it.

It’s not the entire picture.

They misunderstood the mood and the culture and they didn’t anticipate that the Russian economy had the degree of adaptability.

And it seems also that they didn’t anticipate the boomerang nature of sanctions, that it’s actually a double-edged sword.

Because if you have a country that’s well integrated into your economy, then both sides lose in a sanction.

So just to pick up a few points on the structural, the impact on the structural foundations.

The first point I’ll make is that what’s going on with the power vertical is a continuation of COVID-19 governance methods.

So what I mean by that is there was a hyper-centralization in the 2020 constitutional amendment, which gave more powers to certain institutions, which the president himself would consult.

So it was like updating this manual management from the presidential administration so that Putin can keep his finger on many different developments.

But at the same time, there was this kind of decentralization to the governors for COVID governance, but with this kind of coordination of Mishustin, Sabyanin as the top kind of regional leader, and Mishustin is the prime minister, and also Roskomnadzor.

Okay, so this basically has been continued.

You have the president on Zoom speaking to the regional heads and to the Duma and giving them the basic kind of priorities, and then the Duma and the regional governors, they go off and try to implement them.

And so some things to point out that’s been going on.

Well, of course, before we talk about that, we have to say that there were some big economic losses in the very beginning.

There’s 120,000 people working for foreign Western companies that all pulled out of Russia.

The key companies that are involved in transport, like the high-speed rail network, and oil and gas services, companies that service the energy sector, Western and metallurgy as well.

A lot of partnerships were broken.

A lot of access to technology was lost.

And so there’s an immediate question mark came about industrial production and various things in Russia.

The construction industry lost migrants and access to raw materials.

So there’s an increase in the cost of construction, houses and apartments.

And then there’s a fall of income that puts pressure on that whole sector.

So by the end of April, it seemed like Russia sort of coped with these losses.

What were the kind of key measures that were put in place?

Again, quite similar to a kind of emergency regime that went on during the lockdowns in COVID and the similar ways of operating.

The interesting stuff they did, of course, they paid payments to small and medium businesses, which they didn’t get in COVID.

They didn’t get this in COVID.

The Russian government didn’t give money, didn’t use the strategic reserves, but they did offer it from March the 5th.

It was within a week of the military operation they did this in direct response to the sanctions from the West.

The president decided there should be no more prosecution of economic crimes.

There’s an interesting signal that shows that Putin understands that the Silviki can hurt the economy and arrest a lot of people who are not guilty of any real crime.

And so there’s no more economic crimes and the Silviki are being told, go to the front, spend all your time on the front and on political dissidents inside Russia.

And that’s your main jobs.

Tax payments were suspended.

There’s requirements on paying back credit were lowered or even removed.

The so-called credit holiday, kreditniye  kanikuly, social benefits increased, minimum salaries and pensions were indexed to inflation.

So these are the emergency measures.

They support industry like they have done obviously before.

And so by the end of April, Putin was making speeches where he was quite confident and saying, well, we’ve held the economy together and well done to the various structures of the state.

And he claimed that despite the West’s attempt to isolate Russia, that Russia would stay open to partnership and support private business and la la la.

The propaganda kind of side of this, we’ve talked about already that they try to destroy us, but we hold on.

Meanwhile, what we have to talk about here is that some experts very early on predicted that Russia would immediately revert to Soviet methods.

Isolationism, autarky, a kind of closed economy with mobilization and a military industrial lobby and firms just focused on fulfilling a plan of domestic demand.

There’s no evidence really of that so far.

In the St. Petersburg Forum in I think it was June, Putin outlined Russia’s approach in official terms that Russia would not go for isolation, but would look for new partnerships in the non-West.

Secondly, he said there was a heavy accent on entrepreneur freedom and support for their work.

And then this reduction of the Syloviki rating.

Thirdly, that there would be a responsible balanced macroeconomic policy, and that means he’s going to leave control of the economy in the hands of these liberals I mentioned earlier in the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance.

And fourthly, he said, we will work to get new technology, new industries.

Partly we’ll use some inspiration from the Soviet model in the military areas, but we’ll also forward developmental models of Asia.

So this is what he said.

And of course, we have to take it all with a pinch of salt because there’s got to be lots of doubts over the capacity of the Russian economy to withstand this situation.


Well, first of all, right now, the ruble has strengthened and inflation is coming down the last nine weeks, but there’s no guarantee that that will continue.

First of all, we’ve got to look at these processes that are going on in the economy.

First of all is impoverishment.


People are a lot of people that are working for certain companies right now are on leave, holiday leave.

They’re not getting paid and they haven’t been fired.

But come September, everyone comes back to work and a lot of sectors are going to have redundancies.

They’re going to remove people because they can’t afford to keep them.

What will the state be able to do about that?

What will unemployment benefits be like?

What will job creation be like?

Then there’s the problem of the degradation of the technical base of the economy.

Lack of the technical things that are required to run industries or transport infrastructure or the oil and gas industry.

Will the imports come from China?

Will they find a way to import these things they used to get from the West?

Or will there be a degradation of the technical based breakdowns and some parts of the industry is shutting down?

Will the government actually step in and force businesses to keep working at a loss?

Because that will be something which is a bit new and it would be unclear how that will go.

For ordinary Russians, the question of how to plan life is going to be very difficult.

People that were planning to buy a home or buy a car, I mean, now they don’t know what to do.

So general uncertainty is not good in economics.

It means people don’t spend or people do spend, but in a very irrational, erratic ways because they’re trying to get rid of money because they think they will be useless later or whatever.

So it’s unclear where it’s going on.

The question of the IT sector being as important as oil for modern economies is interesting.

I think it’s true.

I advise you to look at Natalia Zubarevich who works at MGO and she has a lot of stuff on YouTube.

She’s an economist and she really does go through a lot of business, analyze a lot of business in the last few months and very good.

I would recommend to look at Natalia Zubarevich.

But back to this section.

What we actually find is that this crisis is in some ways unprecedented.

It’s not like previous crises, like it’s not the Wall Street collapse in 1929.

It’s not the economic crisis of 2009.

It has a very special element to it, which is that quite unprecedented, that like a big producer of energy resources is removed from the global economy and then it shifts to the non-West markets without taking on a model of autarky like the Soviet Union.

Instead, it’s the mixed economy.

And because it has this ideational element where there’s the idea that you have to consolidate and work for the country and tighten the belts and hold the line, wait for the breakthrough, wait for the victory, whatever, wait for the new geopolitical order.

That will give a certain, possibly it will give a certain capacity for the structures to hold together because the people working in the structures keep working.

And that’s a key point.

If people start leaving or turning their backs, then the structures won’t work if the people working in the structures don’t believe what they’re doing.

Having said that, you can talk about ideas as much as you want, but when it comes down to it, the Russian economy has often depended on energy exports.

Before the invasion, the percentage of state budget income from energy was about between 30, 38 percent.

From April, May, June has gone up to 60 percent.

And the reason is a huge increase in energy prices.

And even though they’re selling less energy, they’re getting more money as a percentage of their budget.

Of course, also because other sectors of the economy are not working.

That’s the other point to make.

Very difficult to predict what’s going to happen.

I can’t do that.

And nobody should try and do that.

You can’t predict.

Many people are saying there’s going to be a big drop in GDP and they’re going to have this huge problem of imports.

How to get the stuff they used to import.

Right now, the strength of the ruble is because they don’t import anything and they sell lots of energy.

So, of course, the ruble is strengthened.

But in the meantime, if you look at Russian industrial sector, they have a triple problem.

The first problem is a strong ruble is never good for exporters.

The second problem is how to transport your equipment to places like India or wherever you’re trying to go.

It costs extra for the infrastructure, the transport costs.

OK, and thirdly, Indian customers and Chinese customers want a big discount from the Russians because they know they’re in a difficult position.

They know it’s a buyer’s market, not a seller’s market when it comes to the exports of Russia.

So difficult problems.

But what I want to emphasize here is rather than just focus on Russia, let’s also don’t forget geopolitics, because, of course, the Kremlin never forgets about the geopolitics.

They never stop talking about it.

And the geopolitics here, well, the first thing I’m showing you is this is from Freedom House and this is about democracy and closed and autocracy.

And this is showing you the trends towards autocracy, essentially.

And what you see is a huge Eurasian bloc and then Africa as well is largely authoritarian.

And India is the question mark.

Indonesia is a question mark.

It’s not green.

So this concept of the non-West being more receptive to Russian arguments than the West’s values and arguments has some basis.

And now, of course, I’ll get into a far more speculative thing, which is that there’s going to be a new great game in Eurasia.

Now, the old great game was used to describe Central Asia and the competition between India and the Russian Empire, principally.

But this great game, I have crudely written on a map here and it looks very unprofessional.

I hope you will forgive me for that.

I have marked Russia, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran together.

And North Korea should be there too as countries basically that are agreeing a lot of deals on economics, on security and on basically authoritarian political sovereignty, which means they don’t intervene so much in the idea of trying to lecture each other about what the government should be like.

And China has enormous resources.

It’s pumping into its Belt Road Initiative.

And so what we see here is potentially a Eurasian bloc that existed before, of course, existed before in the Soviet Sino bloc.

But on that occasion, Stalin was the senior partner, Mao was the junior partner.

This time it looks like if it does happen, it will be reversed.

China will be the senior partner, Russia will be the junior partner.

Economies run on energy.

If you look at any phases of great economic growth, it’s almost always coincides with cheap energy.

And these economies will have cheap energy.

Now, I have no time to go through the obstacles to the creation of this Eurasian order.

The recent diplomacy in Iran, it should be extremely alarming to all people in the West and raise serious red flags.

But suffice to say, Putin is not just making a bet on the structural strength of his own economy.

He’s also making a bet on geopolitical change.

And I’ve written in red all the possible areas of conflict.

One of them is already active, Ukraine.

Poland, Lithuania is another.

Scandinavia is another.

North Korea, South Korea is another.

Iraq, Syria, Yemen is already currently a conflict area.

Green are what I would call the absolutely key pivotal switch points.

They could go either way.

They could orientate to the West or they could orientate to the Eurasian bloc or they could stay neutral.

I think that’s in their interest to stay neutral.

So that green bloc should be non-aligned.

But everything is up in the air.

We don’t know what’s going on.

This is one of the great points of uncertainty, which means that anyone’s analysis of Russia is predetermined on whether this order is changing and how it’s changing.

So I just wanted to make that point.

And that covers the structural stuff, really.

I want to point out a couple of key problems that the structural side that they have in Russia.

I’ve mentioned the economic problems and the uncertainties and some of the problems that could happen in the Russian economy by the end of the year.

And I gave you some points on that.

But here’s the other two issues for me.

The key issue.

Now, they have a huge size.

They’re basically unaccountable.

It’s not like they’re a deep state.

They’re like a state within a state.

But Putin has been successful breaking that state up into little parts.

So it doesn’t function as a unified state within a state.

As that’s clear.

But the key issue and their relationship with the economy and how corrupt they are is going to be an absolutely vital point.

And that will determine the key and the degree to which they accept the autonomy of other parts of other structures will determine to a large extent whether or not Russia can go down this hybrid economic model.

They combine neoliberalism and certain amounts of statism in their economy.

Second big question, of course, is the pressure to nationalise industries, which is being resisted so far.

But how will Russia get foreign direct investment?

And if it cannot do that, this pressure to nationalise, which is coming from what I described earlier in the lecture from the neo-traditionalists and the Eurasianists, this illiberal actors who are not in United Russia, they’re outside of it and they’re in inverted commas competing with United Russia.

They are advocating nationalisation.

They are advocating a populist measures of redistributing money to the poor.

And they absolutely hate neoliberalism ideologically.

So how will they be handled?

And so on.

These are two points that are in structure.

And it’s just really, I say that because it’s a bridge to the final part of this lecture.

The final part of this lecture is about factions and understanding Russian politics in terms of factions.

But before I move to factions, I should check to see if there’s any questions or comments after that section on structures.

I suppose it might be a good time to answer Arthur’s questions because he said about, you know, the democratic…

Do you agree with the theory of democratic peace?

And do you think that if Russia was a democratic country, it would not have attacked Ukraine?

There’s actually a literature on this.

And the literature on when countries go to war, according to political regime type, doesn’t show a correlation.

As I know, if you look at the instances of declaring wars and being a democracy or an autocratic regime, it doesn’t hold out if you look over the last 200 years.

So the democratic peace theory is a theory that is very, shall we say, positive, optimistic.

And I wish it was true, but I don’t actually think it is true.

I think that unfortunately for some people in this audience, I would lean towards the realist view here.

And the realist view of international relations says that when powers, if you want to call them great powers or regional powers, when an issue comes along that they themselves define as an existential security threat, which can affect their power status, i.e. if they don’t act on this, they will no longer be a regional power, then they will pursue that goal with great consistency and aggression.

And if things go wrong, they will double down and go even more radical.

To pursue their goal.

That’s what the realists say.

And that is directly opposite to the democratic peace theory.

And that’s my position on that.

There was also a question, I think, but could the USA and the EU done better to avoid the war in Ukraine?

And I didn’t answer this, did I?

Or maybe I did answer that.

OK, that’s fine.

There’s no other questions about structure then.

And I’ll move on to the final part.

If there’s no other questions.


So just to say that I include these three things together in one presentation, because they all overlap and affect each other.

And if you look at one of my submission, that’s great.

Detail for the depth of understanding.

But these three things interact.

So the third part, the last part is about factions.

OK, I’ve mentioned before that from 2018 to 2022, there were some changes in Russian politics that are significant.

And one of the things that became quite significant in 2020, 2021 was a kind of tightening of the lines of acceptable voice opposition and what things you need to be loyal about.

And this happened in 2021 with the Russian government purging of civil society and media and liquidation of the Navalny structures and the arrest of Navalny.


So basically, there’s a framework called some harsh minutes and loyalty, exit and voice.

And I think it’s a very useful framework to look at how different factions operate.

They know on what issues where they’re allowed to have opposition to the government, and they know what issues they have to be quiet about.

And there’s a kind of unwritten, sometimes unwritten kind of political correctness within this electoral authoritarianism.

But there’s also a more written set of rules which are in the law now and the Constitution about, for example, memory politics or separatism or whatever else.

OK, so with that proviso, roughly speaking, we can say that since the invasion of Ukraine, the political factions have obviously reorganized themselves a little bit into loyalist hawks and doves.

Now, by loyalist, I mean, essentially, they listen to what Putin is saying and they more or less give their slightly modified version of it, don’t really deviate from it.

So that includes Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peskov, Volodin, head of State Duma, Medvedev, who is now the head of the Security Council, if I remember correctly. Patrushev, Turchak.

So this and he is the head of United Russia, Sergey Kirienko, head of the presidential administration.

Now, you’ll see these figures sometimes will say occasionally things that look a little bit more radical than what Putin is saying, but basically they’re all in the same status patriotic set of narratives and anti-West rhetoric.

Now, interesting things have been going on with Sergey Kirienko, who has been given extra powers in the Donbass and he’s been making noises a little bit to get the regional governors to invest resources into the Donbass and to teach these new leaders in the Donbass how to run their regions.

And this is only only 18 of Russia’s.

I’ve just forgotten how many subjects there are in the Russian Federation.

82, is it?

And so only 18, one-eight have responded to that request, which has also come indirectly through Putin.

And of course, Moscow and St. Petersburg are doing the most.

Belov, the governor of St. Petersburg and Sobyanin have been quite visible.

But yes, this politics of loyalty, Volodin is clearly positioning himself as a successor to Putin and being very active on Telegram.

He has a very big following on Telegram, actually.

And of course, we know about Piskov and Lavrov, who are actually in the ministries.

So they are a slightly different story for them.

They’re in the ministries and they have to do what the ministries are doing.

They have to basically account for their work.

OK, what about the hawks?

Now, the hawks are basically more radical because they are saying there should be a full scale mobilization, that there should be a total war to Kiev.

Everything should be nationalized in Russia.

And the next step is ??Transnipur??, Lithuania, if need be, Turkmenistan.

And as for the people who don’t follow the war, well, it’s clear, jail them, sanction them, execute them if need be.


And the only thing they seem that these hawks don’t seem to advocate is a nuclear first strike.

As far as I know, they don’t advocate.

Thankfully, they don’t advocate that.

But they go for everything else.

Some of the names here you might know.

Khadirov is the head of Chechnya.

Zakhar Prelepin is a politician and Zapravdu, he’s a writer.

He’s always in the Donbass taking videos.

Sorok Sorokov is an orthodox activist group that has volunteers fighting in the Donbass.

Tsargrad is a channel that’s run by the shady oligarch.

Oh, his name has gone out of my head now.


Thank you.

Thank you, Malafveyev, of course, who funds that.

And he has his own kind of neo-traditional movement.

And of course, the systemic opposition is more radical than the Kremlin.

It has been for a long time on Donbass.

Communist Party and the Liberal Democrats have been advocating for action in the Donbass for a long time.

And of course, the imperial nationalists, the Eurasianists, and many of the conservatives all advocated a full scale war on Ukraine in 2014 and were very annoyed when Putin stopped it and stopped at Crimea in 2014.

So who are the Doves?

The Doves include people like German Graf, the Hedersberg Bank, certain oligarchs, Abramovich, the Kowalczyk brothers who are very close to Putin.

Now, this is what I’ve heard on some of the reports.

There’s a guy called Andrei Percev on Meduza, who uses his contacts in the Kremlin that he still has, even though, you know, he’s been, I think he left Russia.

But anyway, this is a good guy to read.

He tries to unpack this question of the Doves and their influence.

Now, these are people who all want sanctions lifted, want property returned, and want access to capital and technology.

And they want to get a negotiation.

And they were all in all these people in different ways who were involved in the peace negotiations was broke down.

Did they break down in May?

I think middle of May or before the end of April in Istanbul, the Ukrainian delegation withdrew after the massacre, the claims of a massacre outside of Kiev.

So that probably was the middle of April.

So that is the, roughly speaking, the way that the invasion has impacted factional politics.

I will make the argument that really factional politics, Putin’s approach to factional politics hasn’t changed.

By trying to take the Syloviki out of the economic sphere, he is trying to balance things.

And first of all, manage inter-Syloviki rivalry that he believes, I think he believes that this raiderstvo, the raiding of businesses by the Syloviki is actually destabilizing for the Sylviki because they’re competing with each other to steal money.

But on the other hand, it’s also to support the liberal faction and to say that the Kremlin is going to support you in running the economy.

We’re not going to let the Syloviki or the Eurasianists or the neo-traditionalists take over the economy.

Now, the other thing is that to balance the factions out, if we look at the Eurasianists and the conservatives, Putin has not rehabilitated people like Dugin or Igor Strelkov, who were basically pushed out of politics and told to stay away in 2014, and they haven’t been brought back.

And the Izvorsky club, which is a very kind of radical conservative, if you can call it that, imperial nationalists, they also are not getting encouraged.

Prokhorov or any of these people are not being encouraged onto state TV and things.

They’re kept in arm’s length.

And Putin is trying to really, I think, send a message to the Eurasianists and the neo-traditionalists, I’m not going to give the management of the economy to you.

And that’s not going to happen.

So the balance, I think, is still going on.

But I’ll leave you with four scenarios about how things might develop in the coming months and maybe even a year.

Four scenarios about how factional politics could develop from here on out.

Well, the first one is that I’ve already suggested a continuation of what I’m already observing.

Putin is trying to keep the balance.

He’s trying to stop any open conflict and he will get the different factions to either agree and be loyally, loudly loyal to the status of patriotic narratives, or he will ask them to be silent.

Silent loyalty is also accepted by Putin.

He doesn’t demand German Graf go on and make speeches about the war in Ukraine.

He doesn’t demand that.

That’s the first scenario.

So a continuation.

The second scenario is that the hawks win and there’s going to be some patriotic purges.

And that means the war is going to get even worse.

The third scenario is that there’s no…

While Putin tries to continue the balance, he’s not successful and that the liberals are slowly edged out, slowly defeated, partly because the so-called liberals are leaving Russia, you know, eventually.

So far it’s only the 1990s.

Chubais is the only big example of defection.

And I don’t even know what Chubais is doing.

I think he’s keeping his mouth shut.

Has anyone heard anything about what Chubais has said since he left Russia?

I don’t think I’ve heard anything about Chubais.

But there is the second scenario is that liberals slowly leave and certain oligarchs and they do that because they don’t see much hope of being able to influence the Kremlin.

And so that means there’ll be more space for the other factions to move in on and they’ll start to move into the economic realm.

And that will cause a destabilizing thing because they’re going to compete for the economic posts and economic posts give you power.

Controlling the economy gives you power if you’re a faction.

So that will be an issue and who knows what will happen.

Of course, the fourth scenario is what probably most people see as the most unlikely, which is that the doves win and Putin cuts the deal.

But of course, if Putin cuts the deal and he reduces the scope of his ambition in Ukraine, then he’ll have to handle the hawks.

And the thing is that all through the last 10 years, people have been, you know, there’s been a lot of analysis of Russian politics and a lot of criticism of Putin and a lot of it’s very justified.

But I think we can probably all agree that there are actually far worse people that could be put into the president chair than Putin in Russia today.

And that these people are the sort of people that would try perhaps to take power or get to a position where they could grab power if the doves won out.

But that’s speculation.

Those are four general courses that you could observe and try to see evidence of any of the four coming out.

What does it depend on?

Of course, it depends on the course of the war.

It depends on the decisions of individuals in these factions.

It depends upon the extent of resources that are available.

Because let’s not forget, Putin manages factions not just by his words, but with resources, with jobs, with patronage.

And of course, if the state is really pushed and has to spend all this money on, as I mentioned earlier, the unemployment, military expenditure, supporting industries, paying for regions that are struggling, what else do they have to pay for?

Imports that are coming through back doors.

I mean, they’re going to be really struggling.

So maybe they’re not going to have the money to finance to keep their factions happy, maybe.

So this is all the kind of stuff that getting into the realm of speculation.

But still, I’ll make the final point.

We’re very far, I would say, from a palace coup scenario, which is what some people in the West thought might happen very quickly in Russia.

And I don’t believe it’s the case.

OK, so now I’ve got to the end.

And the final thoughts will be maybe a little bit strange.

I’m just to reiterate what I’ve said in this presentation.

Basically, Putin had already increased selective repression and had used electoral manipulation and has securitized whole realms of life in Russia before the invasion.

And I’m arguing that he’s sticking to his previous pattern of the way that he manages, the way that factions are managed, the way that the there’s the avoidance of a single ideology and there’s the instrumental use of different ideational streams and ideological preferences for governance are combined.

And still, these democratic procedures are kept in place, even though they’re extremely tightly managed.

And as before, and as before, the entire enterprise is held together on the logic that the so-called collective West is determined to destroy Russia.

And that part of the game has become even more accented.

So more continuity than change.

But to preempt any questions about predictions, I have some crazy ideas about predictions here just to finish things off.

Hopefully not too crazy.

And maybe you’ll see what I’m trying to make the point.

The first three scenarios come from the Middle East and they all involve authoritarian leaders who got into a conflict with the West.

The first is Saddam Hussein and we know what happened to him.

There was an invasion of Iraq and he was overthrown and he fled to hide in a cave and he was captured, arrested and executed.

I hate to say it, but I don’t think that’s likely.

And if it was likely or possible, we would be entering the domain of a nuclear war and a really dangerous scenario, perhaps the most dangerous scenario we’ve had in global security terms ever, certainly in my lifetime.

And I don’t think it could happen for a number of reasons.

Second one is the Gaddafi scenario.

The masses come out onto the Red Square and the elite splits and there’s a bloody murder of the leader.

Again, I think that’s very unlikely for many, many, many, many reasons.

Most of them I’ve gone through today because I’ve given you in this presentation an outline of what I see to be the foundations of the stability of this system.

And I’ve also underlined that I don’t think those foundations have been severely weakened so far.

The third scenario, I don’t know if you can see this because you might have talking heads, but that’s Ayatollah Khamenei.

And of course, Ayatollah Khamenei was a bit, in a way, had something in common with Stalin in that doubled down into this ideological realm.

He made that ideology obligatory for the whole population.

He withstood the sanctions.

He fought the war against Iraq for as long as it took and he never was removed from power.

But his country was isolated, was a pariah state and under extreme pressure and still survived.

I don’t actually think that is what is going to happen for Putin, but it is very much possible.

But I don’t think he’ll take the ideological route.

But certainly the Ayatollah Khamenei direction is one of the possibilities.

It’s more likely than the first two that I took from the Middle East.

Now, Putin and the people in the Kremlin, the people who are loyal to the Putin system, would much rather see all the historical analogies in terms of Peter the Great or Frederick the Great.

Why? Well, apart from the fact that they have the name The Great in their title, which always makes it good to be associated with them.

But other than that, the reason is that both of these leaders inherited a country with limited capacities, somewhat, maybe perhaps somewhat chaotic conditions in the example of Peter the Great.

And they strengthened the state and the power to the point where they could challenge the order that their country was in.

And then they forced the order to accommodate them through military means.

Peter the Great did that by invading Cilicia in 1740.

Peter the Great did it with the Great Northern War and numerous other wars he waged.

So the idea of using war to fix a problem that’s intractable by other means is obviously a Clausewitzian idea.

And this is very much the statist worldview.

It’s very much 18th century.

That’s why people in the West don’t understand it, because they live in the 21st century.

And these kind of ways of seeing the state and international relations and power projection are unacceptable.

But they are basically a worldview that’s very well accepted in Russia.

So they prefer to see themselves in terms of Peter the Great and Frederick the Great.

But I’ll just finish with the point that Frederick the Great, whatever your opinions on Frederick the Great, many of you maybe don’t even know who Frederick the Great is.

Frederick the Great was a ruler of Prussia, which at that time was a landlocked and rather insignificant.

Oh, no, it wasn’t landlocked at that point, but it was a regional power.

It wasn’t a great power in Europe.

And what Frederick the Great did was invade Cilicia, a very rich province, and took control of it and annexed it to Prussia.

And by doing that, he made, he fought a war, first of all against Austria, which he won, but then he fought a three front war against Russia, Austria and France.

And he held out in spite of all the hardships and losses.

And in the end, he made Prussia one of the great powers of Germany, equal to Austria to some extent.

Now, why am I ending with the strange historical analogy at the end?

The reason I’m doing that is because actually, Frederick the Great’s invasion of Cilicia in 1740 was a game changing event for the European order.

And it had long term ramifications and short term ramifications.

First of all, Austria and France aligned.

They had always been enemies and they aligned.

And partly because they lost the war against Prussia for various reasons.

And there was the French Revolution, was directly connected to the discrediting of the ancient regime that had made its devilish alliance with the Austrians.

And so the war, the invasion eventually led to the French Revolution, spilled over into Germany, a crushing defeat for Prussia, and the Napoleonic Wars.

So it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Frederick the Great’s unilateral decision to launch that invasion unraveled the European order.

He didn’t understand that’s what was going to happen when he did it.

He just hoped that it would boost Prussia’s great power capacities at a minimal cost.

Now, the invasion of Ukraine is opening the world to a huge number of unforeseen consequences that are going on as we speak.

And I think the ramifications will be even huger than Frederick the Great’s 1740 invasion of Silesia.

And it will be ultimately people in the summer school, that your generation and your children that live with the consequences of this in the fullest way.

And so you must struggle to understand what happened, what it means, first of all, for your country, but then for your region and for the world.

And I wish you good luck in this, because it’s an extremely difficult task.

It’s a moving target.

I hope that you found this lecture useful in some regards to understanding what’s going on in Russia.

Thank you for your attention.

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